Kerio Valley earned the notorious tag of the ‘valley of death’ following a spate of inter-community clashes over cattle rustling.
At the height of the insecurity, billions of shillings’ worth of projects stalled. But residents are upbeat about the new found peace and are now trooping back to their farms.
The Government on Tuesday outlined plans to jump-start stalled development projects and initiate new ones in order to enhance peace and spur development in the region.
“Investors are already coming Kerio Valley, a mango factory, which had stalled due to insecurity, is being constructed by Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) at Tot trading centre. This will offer farmers much relief since they have been exploited by middlemen who buy the produce at throw away prices,” said Richard Rutto, a resident of Tot.
Caroline Cheboi, a local resident painfully recollected: “When the water pipes to the irrigation farm were blocked, I watched helplessly as my 2-acre green grams wilted and finally dried up. It was a huge loss that I cry over every time I think of the economic breakthrough I was about to make. We are happy it is being revived.”
Nelson Bailenge, the secretary of Tot-Kolowa irrigation scheme, said the produce was distributed by beneficiaries to their relatives.
“We wanted to form a co-operative society and expand the scheme into a fully-fledged micro-enterprise to improve the socio-economic status of the region. All the projects which stalled because of the conflicts shall be revived,” Mr Bailenge said.
Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner Abdullahi Galgalo Hiddi said following the Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi’s visit to the region, calm has returned and families who had fled their homes have returned.
“For sure we have enjoyed calm for the last three weeks and schools which had closed due to insecurity have since been opened and have been operating normally. Our next phase is to ensure that collapsed development projects take off and there is no looking back,” Mr Hiddi said when he led a security meeting at Iten.
KVDA is set to implement Sh63 billion irrigation-cum-hydro power projects which will be a game changer to thousands of residents in the semi-arid Kerio Valley since more than 100,000 acres of arable land will be put under irrigation.
Mr Hiddi said that the political goodwill has been beneficial to the region and going forward, they want to hold regular peace meetings. “As a long lasting solution, we want to develop a culture of dialogue among leaders and community members to ensure there is sustainable peace that will allow development to take off and change the place completely,” he said.
KVDA Managing Director David Kimosop said they are constructing a Sh70 million mango factory and asked locals to take advantage of the Government’s commitment to transform the region through projects that will impact their lives.
“Kerio Valley is a sleeping economic giant whose natural resources, if fully exploited, can transform livelihoods. Apart from agriculture, the scenic escarpment and its seasonal rivers, valleys, hills and dense forests has a huge potential for film industry,” said the MD.